A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Print Media Websites: Who's Getting it Right?

We've been somewhat critical of newspaper and magazine websites in the past few weeks.  Two of our studies, "The Use of the Internet by America's Newspapers" and "The Presence of Magazines on the Internet", concluded that newspapers and magazines aren't maximizing their presence on the Web.  By using a larger number and variety of Web tools, we fell that magazine and newspaper websites can be significantly improved.

This doesn't mean that all newspaper/magazine websites are terrible.  In fact, I've listed here some sites that do some things on the Web quite well.

  • Best Use of RSS FeedsThe Houston Chronicle does a great job of  making its RSS feeds clearly available from its home page.  While this may seem obvious to some, a large majority of newspaper sites make users go through several clicks to access the site's RSS feeds.   The fact that the Chronicle makes them accessible directly from its homepage is somewhat unique.
  • Best Blog Network:  The Boston Globe has an enormous network of journalist and citizen blogs that cover a wide variety of topics.  Definitely worth checking out, especially if you live in the Boston area.
  • Best Use of Bookmarking:  For newspapers, the Washington Post  is a great example of a site that gives users a variety of options for external bookmarking.  For magazines, Sports Illustrated is the only publication that allows both internal and external bookmarking options (users can save articles on their si.com account or their facebook account). 
  • Best Commenting Features:  There are a few newspapers that have fantastic mechanisms for user comments on articles.  For example,   on the Philadelphia Inquirer website, users cannot comment on every article.  But the site does enable comments on popular articles about local news or special interest items.  On the main section pages, articles with commenting functions are highlighted by a special icon.  The Morning Call and the Virginian-Pilot take a different approach, allowing comments on just about every article on the site.  Also noteworthy is the commenting functions for The Guardian (UK).  This publication has a separate site dedicated to user comments, called Comment is Free.
  • Best Use of Tags:  We found three magazine websites that used tags:  US Weekly, Popular Science, and Parenting.  All three sites have tag clouds on their homepage, which makes searching for article pretty easy.

The great use of these features is encouraging in that it shows that not all publications are clueless when it comes to the Web.  Some magazine and newspaper websites are, in fact, starting to get it right.

Know of any other interesting uses of Web 2.0?  Let us know!

The Presence of Magazines on the Internet

TBG has recently completed a research study called "Analyzing the Presence of Magazines on the Internet". In the wake of success surrounding our previous newspaper study, "The Use of the Internet by America's Newspapers ", we decided to conduct similar research on the magazine industry. Our study reviews the websites of the top 50 most circulated magazines in the United States and evaluates them based on the presence or absence of various Web 2.0 features. After finishing the research, it became clear that magazines are not making use of Web 2.0. Despite their failure in terms of Web features, it should be recognized that magazines have taken on a more effective general strategy than newspapers when it comes to the Internet. Instead of replicating printed content online, as newspapers do, magazines have made efforts to publish unique, Web specific, and easily digestible materials on their websites. In this way, magazines are using the Internet as a supplement to, rather than a replacement of, their printed publications. Magazine websites limit their article content and focus on pushing customers to purchasing printed subscriptions. Here are some key findings from our research:

  • The most common online feature offered by magazines is RSS feeds (48 per cent). All of the RSS feeds offered by magazine websites are partial feeds. In addition, none of the magazines are including advertisements in their RSS feeds, while just 28 per cent of magazines divide their RSS feeds into different sections.
  • Message boards/forums are offered by 46 per cent of magazine websites. This seemingly old-fashioned form of communication is extremely popular on magazine websites, particularly on the sites of women’s magazines.
  • 38 per cent of the magazines require registration to view all of the site’s content. While this feature is only present on 23 per cent of the nation’s top 100 newspaper sites, it seems that magazines are still heavily reliant on website registration. It must be noted, however, that newspaper and magazine online registration is very different. The large majority of the magazines we investigated allow users to view article content free of registration. However, to participate in forums, registration is required. This seems to serve as a mechanism for monitoring content that people post on message boards rather than to collect demographic information, as is the case with newspapers. Thus, this 38 per cent figure largely represents magazines that require forum registration, not registration for the purpose of reading articles.
  • 40 per cent of the magazines offer at least one reporter blog. Readers can comment on 17 of the 19 magazine blogs, while eight reporter blogs offer blogrolls, or external links to other blogs.
  • Video is an offering on 34 per cent of websites.
  • Just 14 per cent of websites use podcasts and bookmarking; eight percent allow comments on articles; and six per cent use tags.
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You can read the report in its entirety here and view our data sheets here Please take a look and let us know what you think!

Exploring Enron's Emails

After 200 of Enron's internal emails were placed in the public domain by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioned (FERC) back in 2003, innovative software company Trampoline Systems created the Enron Explorer based on their own SONAR platform. In the Enron case, SONAR was able to illustrate existing social networks and information by analyzing email content from the entire organization during the 1999-2003 time period. Though the 200 emails that became part of the investigation are not representative of every part of the company, the sample does give insight into internal communications at the highest levels at Enron before, during and after its collapse.

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Republicans Outnumber Democrats Online

A recent study from Nielson//Netratings found that there are more Republicans than Democrats online. Of U.S. adults surveyed, 36.6 percent identified themselves as Republicans, 30.8 percent as Democrats and 17.3 percent as Independents.

This makes perfect sense given that other studies have shown that Republicans tend to earn more money than Democrats. The more money you make the more likely you are to have Internet access.

Here are some other tidbits from the study:

Based on the sites named, it’s clear the survey only looked at mainstream media sites and didn’t dive into the blogosphere. Be interesting to see the breakdown for the most popular political blogs.


Newspaper Website Performance: More than Just the Features

Image Courtesy of GannettInspired by our meeting last week with LA Times reporter T. Christian  Miller, I decided to take a closer look at some of our data from the newspaper study we conducted this summer.  I wanted to see how the online versions of newspapers are performing compared to their print circulations.  The findings were interesting and indicate that there are many  factors besides Web features that play a role in making a newspaper website successful.

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